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Wharton: The evolution of Winder Farms

Published June 4, 2013 10:40 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Valley City •

Much has changed in Utah since 1880. In those days, only 144,000 people lived in what was then a territory. Electricity and phone service would come to Salt Lake City in 1881. A year later, Liberty Park opened.

One thing has remained constant. Winder Dairy, now called Winder Farms, began the home delivery of milk in 1880. Founded by John Winder, the company is now part of the investment group Dolphin Capital and Peterson Partners. But Kent Winder, the vice president of customer relations, and his daughter Aimee Winder Newton, spokeswoman for the company, are the fifth and sixth generations of Winders involved with the family business.

That said, it's doubtful that John Winder would recognize the modern version of Winder Farms. John and his wife, Elizabeth, delivered milk and butter mainly to neighbors and a local hotel. The Winders used horse-drawn wagons until 1928.

These days, Winder Farms delivers more than 300 products, most of them locally produced, to nearly 40,000 homes along the Wasatch Front and in Las Vegas and Mesquite, Nev. The product line has expanded to bread, cookies, produce, meat, juices, cheeses and eggs. Milks include flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, root beer, protein drinks and recovery drinks for athletes.

"We're more like a farmers market on wheels," explained Kent Winder, sitting in an office on the West Valley property that once was part of a larger farm that included dairy cows.

These days, the company contracts with mostly Utah County dairy producers who do not inject their cows with artificial growth hormones.

"We had our own cows until 1973 but, as subdivisions moved in around us, neighbors started to ask about the funny smell," Winder said. "They moved out here to be in the country and see the cows, then they complained about the smell. We moved our cows to Payson and eventually decided to sell the cows and contract with good farmers that have the same ideals we have on how to treat cows."

Newton said growing up in the industry as a child proved to be fun and included experiences such as watching her dad deliver a baby calf in Payson and learning to love drinking chocolate milk. Her late grandfather, Ned, would see a baby announcement in a newspaper and send the new parents a Winder bib. A Sterling Scholar from the area might receive a hand-written note. Ned often showed up at Christmas parties with $2 bills to hand out and, as a longtime announcer at Utah high-school basketball tournaments, often handed out juices and milk along press row. Many Winders, including Kent, still live along the road leading into the company's plant and Country Store.

"One thing that was instilled in me was great customer service," said Winder, who remembers that, when he delivered milk, some families told him to take it right into the home and place it in the refrigerator. "There would be a note to put out the cat on the way out. We told drivers that if they saw a newspaper sitting in the driveway to pick it up and rest it on top of the cooler."

The company may best be known these days as one of the few that still use returnable glass bottles. And Newton said it takes 36 hours from the time a cow is milked until the product reaches doorsteps.

Mike Dutton, the Winder Farms CEO, said that while companies that deliver fresh meat, produce and milk products to customers' home are rare, the trend of home delivery is actually growing.

"There is really a resurgence in home delivery," he said. "People want to eat fresher food. Eating local and eating fresh, nonprocessed foods is a major trend. People want more convenience and want to simplify their lives."

As a person who loves supporting local businesses, I'm especially intrigued by what Winder Farms calls a Utah Box, a weekly surprise filled with several home-grown products that might include sausages, cookie dough, cheese or baked products manufactured locally.

Besides, my grandkids tell me there is nothing better than drinking cold milk out of a bottle. Who I am to argue?

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton